A dog bite or pet animal attack can leave lasting scars that are both visible and invisible. In California, the law holds dog owners accountable for the actions of their pets. If you sustained a dog bite injury in California, you could be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and even emotional distress.
The Shamsi Law Firm, APC can help. From the moment you reach out to Sean Shamsi, his focus is on you. With tens of millions in settlements and verdicts recovered for clients, Sean knows what it takes to provide compassionate and effective legal support. Your well-being is his priority, and he’s with you every step of the way.
Don’t hesitate to contact The Shamsi Law Firm, APC for a free case evaluation with a Los Angeles dog bite lawyer.
What Is California’s Dog Bite Law?
California’s dog bite law dictates that any dog owner is strictly liable for the losses suffered by a person who gets bitten by their dog. This applies whether the bite occurs in a public setting or while the victim is lawfully present on private property, including the owner’s property. Importantly, this liability stands regardless of the owner’s prior knowledge about the dog’s tendency for vicious behavior or any prior incidents involving the dog.
California’s “strict liability” framework starkly contrasts the “one-bite” rule that applies in many other states. In states with “one-bite” laws, dog owners are usually exempt from liability the first time their dogs bite someone if they have no prior knowledge of their dog’s viciousness. But in California, the strict liability rule imposes liability on dog owners almost unequivocally, eliminating the need for victims to prove an owner’s prior knowledge of a dog’s violent tendencies to get the money they need for their treatment and losses.
Is the Dog Owner Responsible for Injuries from a Dog Attack in California?
In California, the prevailing legal principle is that dog owners are responsible for injuries resulting from bites inflicted by their pets. Under this strict liability rule, dog owners are accountable for any damage their pets cause, irrespective of the their history or the owner’s awareness of vicious behavior.
There are a few key exemptions to California’s strict liability rule:
- Governmental agencies working with dogs for military or police duties are typically exempt from liability if the bite occurred under specified conditions.
- A dog’s owner could also avoid liability if their dog bit someone because it was reacting defensively to harassment or provocation.
There’s also the “veterinarian’s rule.” Taken from the Supreme Court of California case of Priebe v. Nelson, this rule exempts dog owners from liability if they contract with veterinarians who get bitten while treating their dogs. This exemption stems from the doctrine of “primary assumption of risk.” This doctrine presupposes that veterinarians are aware of and consent to the inherent occupational risks of their jobs, including the potential for dog bites.
What If the Person Bitten Is Partly Responsible?
California’s dog bite legislation is geared toward establishing the liability of dog owners rather than examining the victims’ conduct. Nonetheless, dog bite victims can sometimes be partially responsible, especially if they provoke the dog. For example, the law specifically mentions that victims generally cannot sue if bitten by a dog defending itself from “annoying, harassing, or provoking” behavior.
California dog bite claims involving at-fault victims are also subject to the state’s “pure comparative negligence” rule. This legal doctrine says that if a victim is partially responsible for their injuries, their compensation should be reduced proportionally. So, if a court finds you 20 percent at fault for a dog bite injury, the total amount of compensation available to you would also decrease by 20 percent.
The best way to minimize your liability and maximize your payout as a pet animal attack victim in California is to work with a knowledgeable Los Angeles dog bite injury lawyer.
What Are Common Injuries in Dog Bite Cases?
Dog bite injuries can range from minor scratches to life-altering conditions. Here are some common examples:
- Puncture Wounds – Small holes caused by the dog’s teeth could develop infections
- Lacerations and Abrasions – Cuts and scrapes may vary in severity depending on the bite force
- Fractured Bones – Bones could become cracked or broken due to the force of the bite
- Infections – These can include rabies and tetanus and can develop if the wound is not properly treated
- Psychological Trauma – Emotional stress from the incident could require long-term treatment
- Nerve Damage – Severed nerves may lead to temporary or permanent paralysis
- Scarring – Scars could affect mobility and self-esteem
- Blood Loss – Significant blood loss can lead to additional complications